Do You Still Need To Go To College To Startup a Billion Dollar Startup?

In the very first episode of Silicon Valley on HBO, eccentric billionaire Peter Gregory is doing a TED Talk (of course, what else do eccentric billionaires do?) completely dissing the whole concept of going to college. He is heckled by someone in the audience, an older, white-haired bearded gentleman who shouts that he’s a “dangerous man” and after a short exchange, storms out of the hall, calling him a “fascist”.

Even though I’m sure that the producers were doing this satirically – as in – who in their right mind SHOULDN’T go to college – I see it in a different light. If you ask me, and I have written about this before, the whole education system is rife for disruptive innovation. With the advent of high-speed internet and mobile technology, we literally can learn whatever we need to learn, just in time, as we need it. We can learn anything, from anyone, anywhere. The barriers to knowledge, at least in OUR neck of the woods (its different for developing societies of course, but we are working on that) are down, and you can learn pretty much anything without having to sit in a stuffy classroom with hundreds of other bored individuals and pay a crazy amount of money for the privilege.

Even the last good reason to go to college – being able to build connections and network with classmates who can help you (and who you can help) later in life is falling away, as we build those connections via social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and whatever the social network of the day happens to be. We no longer need to be pressed against each other in order to build that network and those connections.

I went to college. My wife went to college. We have a son in college. But between this one and the next, he may not need to go to college, and in fact, considering what he wants to do, college may be a bad idea. By the time he’d finish, technology would have marched on, and he’d not be up to speed on the latest and greatest tools and languages (yes, he wants to code). Coding is truly one of those things you can learn on your own. And pretty soon, most things will be that.

For example, a few months ago I golfed with a guy who was a phenomenal golfer. When I asked how he’d learned to be so good, he said “YouTube and Practice”. Yep, golf. Even Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory got a big laugh when he mentioned that he learned to swim from YouTube. But I’ll bet that if you couple it with practice, he might actually not be so bad…

Education is already is flux. Going into debt which may never be repaid for an education of dubious value seems to me a smart move, despite what the producers of Silicon Valley think. Go out there, join or start a startup. Get some real life experience. Learn to code.

Instead of college, “YouTube & Practice” and “let’s see how high the rocket will fly!”